“I’ve got meat juice on my haunches…”

August 19, 2012

I pay little heed to television commercials that do not include bacon. Hell, most of the time I have no idea what they’re even wanting me to buy.

However, there are rare occasions when I am stopped in my tracks, riveted by some marketer’s attempt to get into my head and into my pockets, and, recently, it was hearing one, simple phrase that got my attention…

“I’ve got meat juice on my haunches.”

I looked up from the computer.

(how could I not?)

And what was displayed in high-definition for my wondering eyes to see but a man dressed as a centaur at a renaissance fair and – by the beard of Zeus – he did indeed have meat juice on his haunches.

I was gobsmacked with amusement.

It was far better than my lone, previous renaissance fair experience. I had been duped into attending by a promise of giant turkey legs and hippie chicks pretending to be medieval wenches.

It was a bust. Yeah, there were giant turkey legs but there was something that psyched me out to have each and every wench whose path I crossed hit me with a “m’lord.”

(I was some long-haired, ’90s slacker dressed like a Pearl Jam roadie, not Henry VIII)

The angst of this centaur, though, was the result of a structurally unsound paper plate and gravity leaving the feast which he was about to shove into his gaping maw sullying his horse costume.

(turkey leg, centaur dude, turkey leg)

And I’m riveted when the damned commercial comes on which, thus far, hasn’t been often. It’s that damned centaur’s lament, delivered with irritable resignation, that cracks me up.

In the corporate world, each morning in the office is to run a gauntlet of inquiries as to one’s well-being. Some of the queries are sincere, but, for the most part, it’s a reflexive thing, an obligation meant to be polite and little more.

“How are you?” is asked repeatedly and a soundbite of positivity is expected lest an inquisition begins.

I like the idea of “I’ve got meat juice on my haunches” entering the lexicon as an acceptable reply that conveys “I’m having a rough day and I’d rather not discuss it” and I think that centaur might be able to make it happen.

During the early summer of ’98, I spent a couple weeks wandering through the UK with the same buddy that dragged me to my only renaissance fair and another friend.

Here are four songs that I heard often on that trip…

Texas – Say What You Want
from White On Blonde (1997)

I had heard a couple songs by Texas when their first album came out while I was in college in the late ’80s and was non-plussed. And while the Scottish band led by Sharleen Spiteri had great success in the UK, there was no breakthrough for the them in the States.

Though White On Blonde had been released a year before I arrived in the UK, the album of frothy, blue-eyed soul was a mammoth seller and the hits from the album were still on the stations we’d tune in on our rental car’s radio.

Julian Lennon – Day After Day
from Photograph Smile (1998)

Julian Lennon had burst onto the music scene with his debut Valotte in late 1984 with several hits and a lot of attention. Then, subsequent releases fizzled with little fanfare.

We were surprised to come across Photograph Smile, Lennon’s first new album in nearly a decade, and purchased a copy. The cassette soon became a staple of that trip, a dozen tracks that found John’s oldest son seeming to embrace the legacy of his father’s band.

The Verve – Lucky Man
from Urban Hymns (1997)

I stumbled across the debut from The Verve in early ’94. It might have been from reading about the British quartet in Q or some other music magazine from the UK which was enthusiastic about the band.

I quickly became a fan of their dense, swirling psychedelic-styled modern rock and lead singer Richard Ashcroft struck me as a near-perfect representation of a rock star with his angular features, tousled hair, and indifferent swagger.

Unfortunately, aside from a brief bit of attention after Nike used the song Bittersweet Symphony from 1997′s Urban Hymns in a commercial, The Verve was generally ignored in the States and the masses missed out on one of the best bands of the ’90s.

Catatonia – Mulder And Scully
from International Velvet (1998)

In 1998, The X-Files was at its peak creatively and commercially, having become an iconic pop culture sensation. The Welsh band Catatonia, and their catchy ode to the series’ main characters, was another discovery of ours on that trip and, for two weeks, we played International Velvet into the ground.

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Sooooo…The Phone Can Tell Me If It’s Raining?

May 12, 2012

I have never negotiated a hostage release.

I am not a surgeon awaiting word that an organ needed for me to perform a transplant is on ice.

Those are two of a cornucopia of reasons that I didn’t bother getting a cellphone until two years ago.

The phone I have is basic, a mere conveyance for telecommunication that would have been an impressive device in a ’70s sci-fi flick from my childhood.

It would have still wowed us when I was in college and Gordon Gekko had a mobile phone the size of a brick pressed to his head.

My phone doesn’t talk to me or advise me.

I keep seeing a commercial for the iPhone in which Zooey Deschanel asks her phone if it’s raining.

Her home doesn’t appear to be very large. In fact, it has a cozy bungalow feel. So, unless the place isn’t hers and she secretely lives in the attic, there has to be a window within a few steps.

In fact, as the voice in the phone gives an affirmative on the precipitation, Zooey is shown peering out the window.

Thus, you might not need a weatherman, to know which way the wind blows, but apparently a talking phone is needed to know if it is raining.

I’ve read that mountain gorillas in the wild have been observed to remain in their nests, delaying the start of their day, if they wake and it is raining.

Without a phone to tell them, the gorillas are able to figure out that it is indeed raining and have the good sense to stay in bed.

Undoubtedly, they will be ruling the planet in the future.

A search for songs about “talk” yielded a few dozen. Here are four of them that seemed good for today…

The Tubes – Talk To Ya Later
from The Completion Backward Principle (1981)

I was well acquainted with The Tubes via a high school buddy who worshipped the band. Though The Completion Backward Principle probably mortified long-time fans of the band’s more outrageous stuff, my friends and I loved it.

The slick, new-wave tinged Talk To Ya Later featured Toto’s Steve Lukather on guitar was infectious beyond belief and its title became our salutation for years to come.

A Flock Of Seagulls – (It’s Not Me) Talking
from Listen (1983)

When A Flock Of Seagulls arrived with I Ran (So Far Away) and their self-titled debut, I quickly adopted the Liverpool quartet as my own. I was hearing the music of the future and I wasn’t about to be left behind.

The future was short-lived, but it was fun while it lasted and the band left behind more than just their lone hit in an underrated catalog that produced two wildly entertaining albums.

The hyperkinteic (It’s Not Me) Talking is about a man who believes that he is receiving messages from aliens in his head.

The Alan Parsons Project – Let’s Talk About Me
from Vulture Culture (1985)

The progressive-pop/rock consortium The Alan Parsons produced a string of successful albums during the latter half of the ’70s and early ’80s. Songs like I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You, Games People Play, Eye In The Sky, and Don’t Answer Me were radio staples during those years.

Vulture Culture marked the beginning of the decline in The Alan Parsons Project’s commercial fortunes. However, I did hear the catchy Let’s Talk About Me fairly often on rock radio during the spring of ’85.

Bongwater – Everybody’s Talkin’
from The Big Sell-Out (1992)

I discovered the avant-garde, art-rock duo Bongwater through Paloma with their gorgeous cover of Roky Erickson’s You Don’t Love Me, Yet on a various artist tribute to the Austin cult musician.

On The Big Sell-Out, Bongwater’s final release, the pair offered up a strange, surreal take on the Fred Neil/Harry Neilsen classic Everybody’s Talkin’ that reimagines it as a spoken word tale delivered by a failed actress who has had a nervous breakdown and believes she is actually working with suicidal people.


The Voodoo Economics Of Morgan Freeman And A Bunch Of Fish

March 11, 2012

My concerns are more than some sensationalistic ballyhoo.

They are more than some flimsy, baseless caterwauling from someone possessed by the spirit of a carnival barker, newsstand tabloid, or Republican pundit.

No, I fear that, sadly, there is considerable truth behind it.

Like many people, I have been a fan of the award-winning thespian, but I now realize that I might have been lulled into a false sense of admiration.

I used to look at him as a kindly fellow – compassionate and wise. I mean, if he wasn’t offering rides to cantankerous, elderly women, you might find him engaging in the much-needed rehabilitation of falsely convicted criminals or lending logistical support to masked vigilantes wishing to rid our cities of such criminals.

(of course, lily-livered, bleeding-heart types would rather that we not rid our streets of falsely convicted wife-killing bankers and, instead, target bankers who merely engage in casual games of multi-billion dollar three-card Monte)

The existential threat posed by Morgan Freeman to America’s economy didn’t really register until this morning when I saw a commercial for Visa before I’d ingested enough caffeine to think straight.

(oftentimes things only make sense when you don’t really think about them)

In this commercial, serene images of undersea flora and fauna fill the screen accompanied by the soothing strains of The Moody Blues’ Tuesday Afternoon.

Then, the earnest voice of “the only guilty man in Shawshank,” asked, in a somewhat accusatory tone, “When was the last time you went to the aquarium, with your daughter, on a Tuesday?”

Sure, an aquarium crawl sounds like a lovely way to spend the day after Monday. One of the finest aquariums in the country is a two-hour drive away and, though I have no daughter, the way some of my co-workers squeeze out offspring of both sexes as though it was a bodily function, I could likely borrow one…

But that is exactly what Morgan Freeman wants me to do. In other words, he is promoting not only truancy, but he is espousing a fiscal policy that encourages absenteeism from work.

This would all be well and good for aquarium barons, fishmongers, and oceanographers who would likely see profits that would make those of Exxon be mere pocket change, but at what cost?

The rest of the economy would fall into a death spiral. If people were relaxing at aquariums instead of engaging in the daily grind of commerce, consider the revenue lost simply by those treating bleeding ulcers, intense malaise, and depression.

And think of the children…

Instead of learning how to take tests at a level that places them smack dab at mediocre compared to the rest of the world, these kids might end up as ichthyologists or marine biologists.

Fortunately, today is Sunday and I suggest we all give Morgan Freeman (and his dubious, probably Socialist economic theories) the finger and head to the nearest aquarium today.

Here are four Sunday songs…

Blondie – Sunday Girl
from The Platinum Collection (1994)

From the beginning of my real interest in music in the late ’70s/early ’80s, Blondie has been a favorite. The fetching allure of lead singer Debbie Harry and the percolating Heart Of Glass provided the first hooks, but it was soon the musical diversity of the group that charmed me.

On Sunday Girl, which according to Wikipedia topped the charts in the UK where Blondie has received more consistent love over the decades, the chameleonic quintet recreates a ’60s girl group vibe that drew me in the first time I heard it.

Joe Jackson – Sunday Papers
from This Is It! (The A&M Years 1979–1989) (1997)

Speaking of musical chameleons, I’d certainly classify Joe Jackson as such. Though best known in the States for the sophisticated pop of the hits Steppin’ Out and Breaking Us In Two from his breakthrough album Night And Day, Jackson has jumped between styles including rock, big band, swing, and classical.

On Sunday Papers, Jackson opts for staccato, reggae-inflected tones as the musician takes to task both the media and those who drive the demand for meaningless fluff pawned off as newsworthy information.

John Prine – He Forgot That It Was Sunday
from Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings (1995)

Not long ago, I recounted the good fortune of having had a preview listen of folk singer John Prine’s Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings with a small group of people that included the artist.

The loping He Forgot That It Was Sunday would seem to be a cautionary tale punctauted by Prine’s offbeat take on things which includes a chartreuse, foor-door Lincoln, Charlie Parker’s teddy bear, and a masterbatory Beelzebub.

The Pretenders – Everday Is Like Sunday
from Boys On The Side soundtrack (1995)

Paloma and I tend to be fairly sympatico, but I have never been as enamored by The Smiths as she is.

(appreciative, yes, but far from devoted)

This difference of opinion was seemingly benign until the day she declared The Smiths to be a more formidable musical entity than Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

(I quickly branded this claim as kooky talk)

However, we both seem to like The Pretenders in equal measure, so here is Chrissie Hynde and company’s rather faithful take on a Smith’s classic from Boys On The Side, a flick that may or may not have been about cannibalistic lesbians.